HAIFA, Israel — Former President Jimmy Carter said today that President Reagan's arms sales to Iran had terribly damaged America's standing in the Middle East.
Carter, defeated by Reagan in 1980 when his own presidency foundered over the taking of U.S. hostages in Iran, said the arms sales were especially damaging to relations with Jordan and Egypt.
Just four days before the disclosure that Reagan had authorized weapons sales to the government of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, high-ranking U.S. officials visited Egypt and Jordan--urging them to use their influence to stop all arms sales to Iran, Carter said.
"This put King Hussein and President (Hosni) Mubarak in a very difficult position with their peers whom they had importuned not to sell weapons to Iran," Carter told reporters in northern Israel after receiving an honorary doctorate at Haifa University.
"These two nations and I agree that the most horrible threat to the ultimate security of nations in this region is from Iran," Carter said.
Danger for Syria, Israel
Victory in the Persian Gulf War would enable Iran "to overrun Iraq and would mean that Kuwait and the Arab Emirates and Oman and others would be in great danger. I think Syria and Israel would immediately be in danger to have the ayatollah's forces just a few miles from here," he said.
Carter said an Iranian victory in the war also would send a wave of Islamic radicalism through the Middle East.
He said the lesson he drew from his current tour of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Algeria was that Arab leaders are demonstrating adequate flexibility and willingness to negotiate with Israel to justify the convening of an international Middle East peace conference.
Carter criticized those Israelis, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who oppose a conference on the ground that Arab countries would be able to pressure Israel to accept a solution.